As a long-time Jeep enthusiast, I have never been a very staunch supporter of the theory that bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to Jeeps. I adore the short wheelbase, the inherent maneuverability and the ridiculously small turning radius; although I could get whole-heartedly behind the idea of adding a little more legroom in the front passenger area. Trying to deform my 6 foot 2-inch frame enough to climb over the sill, under the steering wheel and into the cab of an early Jeep probably resembles a really bad contortionist in a third-rate circus side show- you know, the kind where the bearded lady also mans the kissing booth?
If you were going to take an early World War II era Jeep and make it better…where would you start? Enter “The Invader”. The U.S. Coast Guards collective answer to transporting up to 10 soldiers on shore patrol maneuvers with speed and agility. Faster, you ask? I seriously doubt it. More spacious and comfortable seating for passengers? Well, when filled to its intended occupancy, it is clearly as cramped as its Ford GPW predecessor ever was. Nonetheless, watching a video of this rare 1944 “Super Jeep” launch itself over sand dunes is captivating. See for yourself! https://youtu.be/DVl8S-iHMIE
Although very little actual information exists on the Super Jeep “Invader”, most media accounts seem to agree that this was really just a standard military Jeep, likely a surplus unit left over from the war. Skilled fabricators, who were likely accustomed to more nautical ventures, adeptly cut the four-seater in half so that three additional feet of frame and sheet metal could be welded in. These must be three very miraculous feet of increased interior space, as they provide seating for six additional passengers. No mention is made that the drivetrain was modified in any way, other than the obvious lengthening of the rear driveshaft and the addition of a much broader and less-aggressive tire, similar to what you would see on an aircraft; allowing the vehicle to stay atop of the sand rather than dig itself in deep with its newfound girth.
I’m fairly certain, or maybe just hopeful, that the video footage of the fully-occupied ‘Super Jeep’ is somewhat dramatized to be more entertaining to the viewer and to flaunt its increased capacity. Certainly it would not spend quite so much time airborne in its normal daily usage. After all, by most accounts, each frame rail is in three pieces that have been fused together, possibly by no more than an eighteen year old welder’s apprentice whose flat feet kept him out of the infantry. I can’t help but wince a bit when I think of those poor servicemen arranged in a sideways fashion around the cargo area of that old Jeep as it is catapulted off the top of those sandy drifts. They probably don’t remember any questions about being claustrophobic on the medical screening when they first enlisted. How they must have cherished every less-than-graceful landing as the 1-inch steel pipe, mounted to the top of the tub rail as a method of passenger containment, pummels them across the lower back, about kidney high. While such a stunt in a normal Jeep might have you knocking your front teeth out with your knees, this ‘Super Jeep’ seems more intent to punish your spine in such a scenario.
Regardless of how perverse the idea of converting a perfectly acceptable Jeep into a highly specialized land yacht may seem, especially one capable of causing painful disfigurement, I would still jump at the opportunity to take one for a spin with nine of my dearest friends. There have been numerous advances in the art of chiropractic over the past 70 years that we could even justify trying to put some light between us and the ground. Perfect posture is over-rated anyway. OlllllllO